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1956: Plans unveiled for homes in Barbican
A public inquiry is considering plans to build thousands of homes in an area of central London left devastated by the war.

The 55m scheme to re-develop 40 acres of the Barbican area of the city includes residential tower blocks, offices and shops.

The inquiry is hearing an appeal by the New Barbican Committee after the Corporation of the City of London refused outline planning permission last year.

The committee, led by Eric Wilkins, is campaigning for the new development to include housing for up to 3,000 people.

Elevated walkways

The original 1944 Greater London Plan envisaged people commuting into the city from the leafier suburbs and earmarked the Barbican for commercial use.

Since then a number of different ideas have been put forward - but Mr Wilkins has been championing the idea to build homes in the area since 1953, worried that without an electorate there would be no local autonomy.

The blueprint before the inquiry includes plans to excavate down below the level of the railway to allow for car parking and warehousing.

Above ground, there will be a number of high rise blocks up to 20 storeys high, with offices below and flats and maisonettes above. There are plans for gardens and a lake and the whole area will be linked by elevated pedestrian walkways.

The plan centres round part of the remaining Roman wall and the medieval church of St Giles, only the shell of which was left standing after the blitz in August 1940 devastated the rest of the area.

The plan refused by the City of London Corporation originally included more housing for up to 5,000 residents described by the architects as "young professionals, likely to have a taste for Mediterranean holidays, French food and Scandinavian design".

It also included an exhibition hall, swimming pool and squash courts to be grouped together in one glass conservatory-style building shaped like a truncated pyramid.

One objection to the revised plans has been raised by the consulting engineer to St Paul's cathedral.

Mr C T Woolley said he was concerned the Barbican development could pose a serious risk to the cathedral's foundations.

But his concern was rejected by the committee's representative, Mr W B Harris.

He said: "Could anyone think of any serious developer putting in a plan that had 'the slightest chance of jeopardizing that great cathedral?'"

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Wasteland in the Barbican
The Barbican area of London was devastated by the blitz in August 1940


In Context
Plans to re-develop the Barbican site as a genuine residential development eventually received the backing of the Minister of Housing and Local Government, Duncan Sandys, in August 1956.

In 1957 London County Council and the City of London Corporation agreed to modify plans for the commercial development of the area surrounding the Barbican. There were to be only three new office blocks so as not to overshadow the estate and the raised walkway was to be extended into the commercial area.

The final plans drawn up by architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, which had been extended to include land to the north of Beech Street, were accepted by the Corporation of London in 1959.

Construction work began in the early 1960s and was completed by 1975. Frobisher Crescent was never completed as planned. Its kitchens, ready to be installed, went into storage, and it has been used as a business school for much of its life.

Today the Barbican centre contains 2,000 residential flats and is grade II listed.

The Barbican arts centre was built later. It was opened by the Queen in 1982.

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